As Nurses Week rolls around each year, we always come upon those inspirational quotes that show the heart of nursing or the altruistic values that (we hope) drives all nurses into the career. We pat each other on the back and administration provides gifts and food to the staff. For that week, we get a passing “Happy Nurses Week!” or “Thank you for what you do!” from staff and even the patients and their families. For that week, we get recognition for the care we provide to our patients and their families. This week is not enough.
No, I don’t think we often deserve praise. I think of this week quite differently. I believe this week is when nurses look for meaning in their careers. They are grounded again. Nurses need to remember their intentions more than once a year. In a career of burn-out, we need to be reminded of the spirit of nursing frequently. How is your attitude? Do you check it regularly? Is your mentality affecting patient care? Does your mood influence your team? Are you impacting them positively or negatively? What do you do to ground yourself again? Is burn-out rampant in your facility? What are you doing to avoid burn-out in yourself?
Sometimes I catch myself sighing at a patient’s chief complaint or thinking “You’re fine. Go home.” What I do when this happens is: I imagine this is a family member of mine. How would I want them to be treated? I want to be sure nothing is wrong, so I work hard to gather all the necessary information for the doctor to diagnose the patient promptly. I don’t wait. I get it done. Time can wreak havoc on nerves and delaying care can be detrimental to outcomes.
Next, I make the patient comfortable. I remind myself that the emergency department can be a scary place. Sometimes, we think it is their favorite place to be. Maybe that is true for a few, but we still provide the same care. We do it with a smile even when the patient is berating, pushy, or rude. We do it with a genuine smile when the patient is scared, good-intentioned, and kind. We do it for everyone, including family members. We sit and explain what is happening to calm fears or worries. We remove ourselves emotionally when things don’t work out.
During tragic events, we put on a mask so that we can still provide care to others. We protect patient privacy and guard our hearts. I remind myself of those situations when I find myself low in the compassion tank. Nurses have funny ways of coping, don’t mistake these ways as the core of their being. We have inside jokes and try to make each other laugh. We get annoyed with each other and drown ourselves in work. We are still people.
We are people who put our children in the care of strangers to go and care for strangers. We are people who leave our families to comfort yours. We are strong for patients when our personal lives fall apart. Some of the best people I’ve met are nurses, and for all that we experience, I believe nurses must be reminded of their core values more than once a year.
I will close with my nursing philosophy that I drafted over eight years ago… It is a bit wordy, but I still read it from time to time. I have since changed my philosophy, as I am continually growing. Take care of yourself and remind yourself of what placed you in this role! Inspire yourself regularly and seek to inspire others.
Shalom, light, and love.